Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Getting Started in Wearable Tech

Craft & Design


Sew a circuit, knit a sensor, electrify your wardrobe, it’s CRAFT’s Getting Started in Wearable Technology Gift Guide! Check out our Soft Circuit and Fashion Tech archives for project inspiration, and then look here for all the supplies to get your holiday shopping done!

Conductive thread (~$20)

There are many different places to get conductive thread. My favorite is Lame Lifesaver, since their thread doens’t fray as much as other kinds I’ve tried, but you can also pick it up from Sparkfun and LessEMF. If you’re looking for a little more than just thread, you might try the LilyPad E-Sewing Kit that also comes with some sewable LEDs to get you started.


Fashioning Technology ($29.99)

Ready to take your craft projects to the next level? With “smart” materials, unorthodox assembly techniques, and the right tools, you can create accessories, housewares, and toys that light up, make sounds, and more.


LilyPad Arduino kit ($39.95)

The LilyPad Arduino is a microcontroller that’s designed to be sewn to fabric with conductive thread. It’s got a slim profile and smooth back so it won’t poke the wearer if its in a garment. You can start with our LilyPad Arduino 101 video and then use it to make a turn blinking bike patch, or whatever else you can imagine! Sparkfun carries all kinds of LilyPad related items like sewable LEDs, sensors, battery holders, conductive thread, etc.

conductivefabric1.jpg conductivefabric2.jpg


Conductive fabric sample pack ($10)

LessEMF sells all kinds of conductive materials, and the choices can be rather overwhelming. The conductive fabric sample pack lets you touch each kind they offer and test its conductivity for whatever project you have in mind. The sample pieces are big enough to make projects with, too, like soft switches or touch sensors.

Open Softwear E-Book (free)

Produced by folks associated with K3, the Malmö University School of Arts and Communication in Sweden, Open Softwear is a free e-book with easy-to-follow and well-illustrated examples in e-textile techniques. Download and print it, or give the gift of the Portable Document Format!


Conductive Velcro ($16.95/ lin ft)

Conductive Velcro is my absolute favorite of all the weird conductive materials out there. It’s fuzzy, shiny, and makes a great switch. It’s a definite crowd pleaser so it’s great for show and tell! I used it for the switch on my LilyPad Arduino bike patch. It’s expensive, but a little goes a long way.


LED Ornament kit ($18)

Brighten up the season by making your own LED Felt decorations. Three designs to choose from and look ma, no soldering!



The price varies wildly for multimeters because they make them with so many different features. You can get a decent one for under $50. They’re useful for testing the resistance of a trace of conductive thread, testing where your circuit might be shorted, or trying out lamé in the fabric store to see if it’s conductive (just ignore the clerks’ funny looks). A multimeter is an indispensable tool for wearable electronics and will last a long time if cared for properly.


Conductive findings and closures

Paired with conductive thread, you can use any metal closure as a switch or circuit-to-fabric fastening mechanism. Snaps, hooks and eyes. metal buttons, metal zippers, you name it. Your techie crafter giftee might enjoy an assortment of these in his/her stocking!

In the Maker Shed:


Want more? Stop by the Maker Shed. We’ve got all sorts of great holiday gift ideas, Arduino & Arduino accessories, electronic kits, science kits, smart stuff for kids, back issues of MAKE & CRAFT, box sets, books, robots, kits from Japan and more.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines in December:

04 (Fri) – Deadline for microscope shipping
11 (Fri) – postal shipping deadline
14 (Mon) – ground shipping deadline
18 (Fri) – FedEx 3-day shipping deadline
21 (Mon) – FedEx 2-day shipping deadline
22 (Tue) – FedEx overnight shipping deadline

*Customers experiences on orders with these ship methods placed after these dates may vary, the dates listed are what we call “safe dates”

USPS (Any Method):
Due to the high volume of mail that the postal service deals with around the holidays, order by Dec. 10th, however, many packages are lost or delayed in transit and we do not replace or refund any orders lost using this ship method, we strongly encourage you to not use this method in December.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

View more articles by Becky Stern


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